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Nutrition Counseling: A Key Ingredient in the Diabetes Diet

Figuring out what, when and how much to eat is tough when you have diabetes. A registered dietitian can help.

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If you have just learned that you have diabetes, you may be questioning what you can eat. You may think your only choices from now on are things that have no sugar, no carbs and no taste.

Take heart. A healthy eating plan for someone with diabetes is no different from a healthy, balanced diet. It includes plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, lean protein and low-fat or fat-free dairy.

If your eating habits need changing, you will probably benefit from some help. Many people get the guidance and motivation they need from having a registered dietitian or a registered dietitian/nutritionist on their diabetes team.

The dietitian’s role

A registered dietitian, or RD, or a registered dietitian/nutritionist, or RDN, are food and nutrition experts. A dietitian will sit down with you and, with your input, create a personalized nutrition plan. He or she will give you the nutritional information you need to help manage your diabetes.

What to expect in your nutrition counseling session

When you meet with your dietitian, he or she will ask you about different aspects of your life to design a meal plan for you. The plan will be based on:

  • Your medical conditions
  • The right weight for you
  • Your lifestyle
  • What medications you take
  • Your blood pressure and cholesterol goals
  • Your food allergies, intolerances and preferences

Even people who have had diabetes for years can benefit from working with a dietitian. A person’s needs can change and food guidelines are regularly updated.

Your dietitian can also help you learn how foods affect blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels. A dietitian can:

  • Evaluate your health needs and your diet
  • Give you advice about nutrition issues and healthy eating habits
  • Develop meal plans for you, taking into account your preferences, cost of meals and any chronic conditions
  • Develop a healthy weight-loss plan, if appropriate
  • Evaluate the effect of your meal plans and make changes, if needed
  • Help you learn to read food labels and learn to make food substitutions
  • Help you plan how to eat when you’re sick

Is nutrition counseling for me?

The American Diabetes Association recommends that everyone with diabetes or prediabetes get nutrition counseling, also called medical nutrition therapy, from a registered dietitian. It’s best if the dietitian has worked with people who have diabetes.

By Emily Gurnon, Contributing Writer

American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes — 2015. Diabetes Care 2015; 38(Suppl. 1):S1–S99 Accessed: October 1, 2015.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. Accessed: October 1, 2015.
American Diabetes Association. Your health care team. Accessed: October 1, 2015.

Last Updated: September 30, 2015